Picture this, if you can: a booming village in the middle of the Namib (which is a coastal desert in Africa, for all of you who went through the American education system.)
In 1908, Zacherias Lewala was shoveling sand from railway tracks in the middle of the town, a region owned by Germans. It was soon inhabited by hundreds of German families when Lewala realized that he had just stumbled onto some of the richest diamond deposits in the world.
However, only 40 years later, it's completely abandoned. Why?
The first things that the Germans did before looking for places to build houses in Kolmanskp was build a pub, of course. They then moved in to the area that would produce almost 12% of the world's total diamond production in 1912. So even though they lived in the middle of the completely isolated desert, the people who lived in Kolmanskop were rich.
In its prime, this town looked very different from the place you see today. Fresh water was pumped from 120km away and stored in tanks, which allowed residents to have bright green, well kept lawns with rose beds and eucalyptus trees. One family even had a pet ostrich who reportedly terrorized the townspeople. Seems like an odd pet to have, but the wind-whipped desert isn't exactly the most comfortable place to bring Fido and Spike.
Kolmanskop was also once full of music. A German expert was called on to build a concert hall. The mine made enough money to pay for opera companies to get shipped all the way from Europe to perform there. On top of that, they also had a local orchestra, gymnastics troop and a theatre group. Basically, it was a big musical diamond party, with the downside of having to sweep up sand from your house every morning.
In addition to all the music, there was also a hospital, a casino, another theater besides the large concert hall and a bowling alley. There was also a swimming pool. In the middle of the desert. After a long day of hard work mining diamonds, who doesn't want to come home to a relaxing game of bowling and swimming? But in 1954, this village was deserted, and now sinks deeper and deeper into the sand.
The unfortunate thing about diamond mines is that they're not endless. That would be pretty cool, wouldn't it? Diamond earrings and rings for all. But in the early 1930s, the area had already started to decline. But then there was one discovery that would be the end of the golden era. Or the diamond era, we might say.
There's always a bigger fish, according to Qui Gon Jinn and probably a couple other people who have said that at some point in time. The richest diamond deposits ever known were discovered in 1928, which sort of knocked Kolmanskop down a peg. But it turns out it was only 270km south of Kolmanskop, along the Orange River.
So, can you guess what the inhabitants of Kolmanskop did when they heard the news that there were even more diamonds, right by them? They abandoned their homes for more diamond dreams by the Orange River. Kolmanskop became a supply depot for those mining along the river, and the population swiftly began to decline.
The last three families left Kolmanskop in 1956. They were probably getting lonely, all by themselves in the desert with no diamonds left to keep them company. When they abandoned the town, there was no one left to maintain the area. Now, the sands that were once swept away every morning are uninhibited, and starting to swallow the whole town.
At the height of its popularity, Kolmanskop's population reached 1,300 people. Now, it's a whopping population of zero. Due to its low population and high wealth, for a short period, Kolmanskop had the highest per capita wealth in the world.
And even with all its abandoned concert halls and mysterious nooks and crannies, Kolmanskop is not a popular tourist destination. That's probably because to enter, you're required to get a special permit. The town is location in a "forbidden zone" or a "Sperrgebiet," operated by the Namibian government. The entire area of the Sperrgebiet is a natural park, making it one of the few natural parks in the world with severely restricted access. It is restricted partially due to the ghost towns, valuable items and ownership of the land.
It's really no surprise that there are reports that Kolmanskop is haunted. It almost comes with the territory: abandoned, creepy sand village in the middle of a desert. The site is sometimes used for filming, like for the 2000 film The King Is Alive, so people have had a chance to venture into these abandoned ruins.
Many who have ventured onto the grounds have reported hearing footsteps, and hearing voices. Which we can imagine is endlessly creepy, because hearing footsteps in the sand seems like a difficult task. Maybe it's just the wind, or maybe it's the residents from long ago, still haunting the land, cursing all their diamonds for eventually running out and making them have to move.
Some visitors have allegedly seen disembodied figures that vanish into thin air. This is probably why it's known to attract ghost hunters from all around the world. Visitors also reported an eerie feeling when they entered the butcher shop. Which makes sense, because butcher shops are pretty eerie.
Others report going to the village and pulling things out of the ground that have been swallowed by sand. One man said he put his hand in the sand and pulled out a 70-year-old bottle of unopened hair tonic. Are you going to go get yourself a permit and visit Kolmanskop? If anything, do it for the free hair tonic you might find.